Many dating app users face violence: ‘An EU directive is needed’

Many dating app users experience various forms of abuse. This is what emerges from a study by UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) Resilient People and Helpline 1712. They are now advocating for a European directive. “Many users are unaware of the risks and dangers.”

Australian research recently showed that almost three-quarters of users of online dating apps and websites have experienced online violence in the past five years. One in three users has even been the victim of physical (sexual) abuse. This is also the case in Belgium: this year, the helpline 1712 received at least fifty calls about violence in which a dating app played a role.

These include confrontations with revenge porn, ‘date rape’ (a form of date rape), sextortion and ‘grooming’ (advances of a sexual nature). On the occasion of the 1712 day on December 17, the helpline, in collaboration with the UCLL University of Applied Sciences, took a closer look at the five most popular applications in Belgium: Bumble, Grindr, Happn, Parship and Tinder. This demonstrates that apps are committed to fighting violence, but can do so much more. Most apps throw algorithms and artificial intelligence into battle.

Additionally, all apps except Happn offer the ability to report violence. But how this should be done and what will be done with it is unclear. It is easy to create fake profiles and remain completely anonymous. If an app refers to help, it is often American initiatives.

1712 calls for a general policy. “There are European regulations on child seats, nutrition labels and cosmetics to protect consumers, but not for dating apps,” says UCLL’s Wim Van de Voorde. Social Affairs Minister Hilde Crevits can only applaud with both hands the awareness-raising by UCLL and 1712 and promises to alert her European colleagues about the study: “I hope that all the victims will find their way to the line assistance 1712.”

Australian research recently showed that almost three-quarters of users of online dating apps and websites have experienced online violence in the past five years. One in three users has even been the victim of physical (sexual) abuse. This is also the case in Belgium: this year, the 1712 helpline received at least fifty calls about violence in which a dating app played a role. These include confrontations with revenge porn , ‘date rape’ (a form of date rape), sextortion and ‘grooming’ (advances of a sexual nature). On the occasion of the 1712 day on December 17, the helpline, in collaboration with the UCLL University of Applied Sciences, took a closer look at the five most popular applications in Belgium: Bumble, Grindr, Happn, Parship and Tinder. This demonstrates that apps are committed to fighting violence, but can do so much more. Most apps throw algorithms and artificial intelligence into battle, and all apps except Happn offer the ability to report violence. But how this should be done and what will be done with it is unclear. It is easy to create fake profiles and remain completely anonymous. If an app refers to aid, it is often about American initiatives. 1712 calls for a general policy. “There are European regulations on child seats, nutrition labels and cosmetics to protect consumers, but not for dating apps,” says UCLL’s Wim Van de Voorde. Social Affairs Minister Hilde Crevits can only applaud with both hands the awareness-raising by UCLL and 1712 and promises to alert her European colleagues about the study: “I hope that all the victims will find their way to the line assistance 1712.”

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Many dating app users face violence: ‘An EU directive is needed’


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